'They destroyed my soul': Stories from Ukraine a year on from Russian invasion

Rohit Kachroo has a special report on a brave Ukrainian teenager rebuilding her life after losing almost all of her family

No matter where you look, everyone in Ukraine has their story of the war and what they have lost.

Throughout this period ITV News has reported on and witnessed the conflict first-hand and, with the one-year milestone in mind, has spoken to the very people at its heart to find out how their lives have been immeasurably shaped.

After a year that changed everything, how are they coping with their new reality?

Sonia - 13-year-old girl from Kyiv who lost her family at the start of the war

Sonia grew up as part of a tight-knit family, who loved the outdoors. Her parents, Anton and Svetlana, were both vets and she was close with her younger siblings, Polina and Samen.

However, two days after Russia's invasion began that all changed forever.

As Moscow's troops began to close in on Kyiv, Sonia's family tried to escape the Ukrainian capital by car. But as they drove away Russian troops opened fire, killing all of Sonia's family and gravely injuring her.

Such was the extent of her injuries that she was told she might never be able to walk again.

Sonia's (left) family were all killed two days into the invasion. Credit: ITV

Sonia's grandmother, Svitlana, who now cares for her, told ITV News it is a "great grief" they must live with.

"She misses her brother and sister. She doesn't show it, but I can see it. I can see how she reacts when she hears the names Polina and Samen somewhere," she said.

"Something is happening to her at that moment."

Svitlana explained that "life doesn't make sense" and that she does not know what she would have done if Sonia had also died in the attack.

She added: "It's the only thing I have left."

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Yelizar - Doctor who endured the Russian seige of Mariupol

Yelizar is a doctor who has seen some of the worst of this war. When the first gunshots were fired he was living in Mariupol with his wife, Valeria, and their young daughter.

Speaking to ITV News, he recalled "great days" living in a city, which he described as "so beautiful".

But Mariupol, a coastal city in southeast Ukraine, was almost obliterated in the first weeks of the war. The Ukrainian government now estimates that at least 95% of the city has been destroyed.

Yelizar spent three weeks working in hospitals across Mariupol. Credit: ITV

"From the first day I saw panic, panic, all the citizens, they panic," he said.

"When I traveled from one hospital to another hospital, I saw so many destroyed buildings and so many dead people."

After remaining in the city for three weeks, Yelizar and his family fled to Kyiv, but the experience has had a lasting impression on him.

He said: "I lost my kindness maybe. I make myself stronger. I'm better like a doctor because I saw many deaths. I helped hundreds of people. But inside, in my soul, they destroyed it forever."

Jhanna - Nurse who escaped to Germany as an asylum seeker with her daughter

"I really miss my past life in Kherson," Jhanna told ITV News.

"We left our home, our relatives. I don't know when I will see my mother."

Jhanna was living and working as a nurse in the city of Kherson with her daughter, Sofia, when Russian forces invaded.

She first spoke to ITV News through video diaries at the start of the war, documenting a three-month period spent under Russian occupation.

"Today in the morning I woke up and I'm told I'm in the Russian federation. But I don't want to be. I don't want to be. I'm starting to… they're not allowing me to leave," she said.

"We've been taken hostage. The panic has spread, too many people are panicking."

Jhanna and Sofia both fled Kherson after spending three months under Russian occupation. Credit: ITV

Eventually enough was enough and, over the course of a week, Jhanna and Sofia fled Kherson via Russian held Crimea, initially arriving in Georgia, then Turkey before claiming asylum in Brandenburg, Germany.

"To be honest, I left Kherson only for Sofia. It was a very hard decision. We left and my parents stayed there, my heart is breaking in pieces every day," she added.

Sofia now attends a German language school with around 20 other Ukrainian children, as her mum attempts to bring some sort of stability back into their lives.

In November, circumstances changed in Kherson with Ukrainian forces re-capturing the city from its Russian occupiers.

But the shelling has not stopped and neither has Jhanna's fears for her parents.

She said: "The war, the separation, the distance, it helped us to understand that you have to appreciate every day that you have. I dream of hugging them, of seeing them alive and well."

'Oh my God, there's a shell falling somewhere': Jhanna's mother tells her she can hear Russian shelling in Kherson during an emotional phone call

Tetiana - Mother whose son was taken prisoner by Russian forces

Tetiana is one of many mothers in this war living without the certainty that her son, Vlad, is still alive.

Somewhere in Russia, Vlad is among the hundreds of civilians who have been captured by the Kremlin's forces and are now being held as prisoners of war.

"I didn't know you could miss someone like that," she told ITV News. "We have never been apart for so long. He's supposedly there and at the same time he's not."

In April last year, everything changed for Tetiana as Russian forces began to retreat across Ukraine, and in their wake came chilling discoveries.

Mass graves containing hundreds of people were discovered in the city of Bucha. The grim find terrified Tetiana, who described feeling as though her "life was over".

She said: "Every time they dug up the grave, I prayed they wouldn't find him there."

Tetiana's son is thought to be held in Russia as a prisoner of war. Credit: ITV

Vlad was last seen alive by neighbours of Tetiana, who said he was lying on the ground after being shot in the leg.

Months went by without a word of his whereabouts before, in May, a prisoner of war, released by the Russians, contacted Tetiana to say he had heard Vlad's name being read out during a prison-roll call.

Tetiana described the news as though she had been "born again", although it would not be until last September that she heard directly from her son.

In a written letter, he said that he was "doing well", telling his mum "don't worry about me, take care of yourself".

The letter offered Tetiana hope that she will one day be reunited with Vlad.

She said: "It's the only thing that gives me strength. I wait every second, that's why I live."

Yulia's husband died fighting in the city of Bucha. Credit: ITV

Yulia - Widow whose husband died defending Bucha

Some twelve months on from the Russian invasion and Yulia is among a growing number of young Ukrainian widows borne out of this conflict.

Her husband, Oleksandr, was a car mechanic, family man and patriot who signed up to defend his country. On the first day of the invasion he got Yulia and his two daughters to safety while he stayed behind.

But during the battle for Bucha, Oleksandr was shot and taken to hospital, where he died from his injuries.

After the city was retaken by Ukraine, Yulia was able to identify his body amongst those found in a mass grave.

She told ITV News: "I've changed completely. I think it broke me. And now I live for my children.

"I told my kids, too, that if it weren't for them, I would lie down next to their daddy, it would make me feel better. I think we're all hanging on to each other, trying to find some support."

Life and War: Ukraine A Year On will be broadcast on ITV1 on Thursday, February 23 at 9pm.